Family History, Dad’s side

I have never posted much about my personal life on social media. I was recently chatting with an old pal, Don Davis, and he pointed me to a collection of his family histories, Murders and Snow. On a recent rainy weekend I read all of them. It made me feel closer to Don, and even though we’ve known each other since 1996 or so, I’d now call him a friend. It also got me thinking about the benefits of putting this kind of thing on the net, and even more so since Covid.

My parents were first-generation Americans. Dad’s father came over from Galicia as a late teenager, and started work making costume jewelry. He brought the rest of the family over. I didn’t appreciate this much, except when I was in high school we drove up to Boston to see another part of the family, and we got 10-speed Peugeot bikes at cost because we were “Izzy’s grandkids.” (His wife insisted he have an American name, so he became Edward and used Isidor as his middle name.)

When he brought over his mother (Dad’s grandmother), she told her husband she was going to the store; she got on the boat for New York and never came back. Another family member was Aunt Sue, who never married, taught piano and played for the silent movies. She lived in the same apartment building. It was an old classic, a stereotypical building on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx (New York). The temple was across the street. Here’s a link to a modern photograph.

We would visit them occasionally, and at least once a year for Passover Seder. When President Reagan asked Lee Iacocca to chair the committee to restore Ellis Island, my parents donated money to have the names of our grandparents inscribed on the memorial wall. I got to see it years ago, when I took my family down to New York.

Dad was raised Jewish, but became an atheist when he went to MIT. Long Island, NY, was the silicon valley of the 1950’s and early 1960’s and he met my Mom at work. He pursued her; he once wrote her a poem on father’s day that asking her, yet again, to marry him and start a family. It ended with “While these iambic feet / plod on father’s day” or something like that.

She was a divorced German woman, and they got married. His family all boycotted the wedding. I only vaguely knew about this when we were looking through my grandmother’s albums (on my mom’s side) and saw a receipt for the reception, held at her home. As kids at the time, the only thing we appreciated was that it cost something like $75.

My middle name comes from my Great Uncle Eugene, who was the first to accept my mom. I remember as a little kid he would have “silver” Kennedy half-dollars to give each time he saw us. By the time we were born, all of the visible animosity had dissipated, and I assume my parents forgave his side of the family.

My Dad was an electrical engineer who ended up in management and founded two companies. I had a natural talent for programming, I went to MIT and I work in distributed systems and computer security. My three sons are also engineers. It runs in the family.

(Thanks to my sisters, Wendy and Jill, for helping with the facts.)

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